NEW Zealand netball star Liana Leota is Severn Stars' first signing for the new season.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist joins in both a playing and coaching capacity.

Leota, 34, revealed Stars’ new head coach Melissa Bessell was one of the factors that attracted her to the club.

“I am really excited to be a part of a new franchise and team and definitely excited about a new challenge and the potential the team has to do big things this season,” the wing attack and centre said.

“I hope to bring all of my experience, skill set and creativity. I have been playing netball for a very long time.

"I have had some amazing coaches, played with some of the best netballers in the world and played in a lot of high-pressure matches.

"For me it is about passing on my knowledge and sharing my experiences with those that ask or want it.”

Leota said she was looking forward to working with her team-mates. 

She continued: “The Stars’ defence really impressed last year so I am keen to see how that can only get better for the upcoming season.

“I also love having a great understanding and relationship with my shooters. They are key in order for me to do my job and do it well.

"My individual benchmark I have for my own team goals every year is to make the top four and then anything after that is a bonus.”

Leota said of Bessell: “Being able to have someone from New Zealand as your coach and friend was huge.

“We also share similar values, goals and the same vision moving forward for this team.

"I had Melissa as a coach for a couple of years in the New Zealand Maori team.

"I loved how she says everything as it is, doesn't beat around the bush, her work ethic but also the work ethic she demands of her players and her passion for the game.”

Leota moved from Palmerston North, New Zealand, to the United Kingdom with her family in 2011 and played for Manchester Thunder for the last four seasons.

An impressive international career saw her win gold with the Silver Ferns at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and silver in 2014 and silver at the 2011 World Championships. 

Leota, who will also be coaching within the Stars set-up, said she hoped to use her experience to guide younger team-mates.

She added: “A big plus for me would be my team-mates learning something new from the knowledge or skill set I can either pass on or demonstrate in training, in games or off the court. 

“When deciding on making the move, Melissa had also talked to me about a mentor role within the team, how she had a young team that just needed someone in the mix with some experience to guide and equip them with the right tools and the knowledge. 

"With the potential to grow, this group could be enormous if we get it right.

“I am definitely not your normal netball player. I see things very differently to most and try to play the game steps ahead of others.

"I hope that I am able to show my team-mates that there are many different ways to play the game we love and you don't have to play it like everyone else.”

Bessell said: “This has to be one of the best signings in the Vitality Superleague.

"Liana is not only a world-class athlete but an amazing leader with an enormous amount of experience and one of the most down-to-earth, beautiful people in the game today.

"It is so exciting to have her playing for Severn Stars this season. She is one of the most dynamic players with an innate knowledge of the game.

"Her passion and flair is simply magic. I am so pleased to be working with her in my first season with Severn Stars and am excited for the other athletes to work alongside her.”